Ctrl: A Story of Mobile App Development

South Africa’s first independent digital short term insurance advisor, Ctrl, will launch in the first half of 2018.

We spoke to Pieter Venter, one of the three founders about their experience working with Polymorph to develop the mobile app, as well as their thoughts about the future of insurance

Mobile first and independent, Ctrl has differentiated itself from insurance brokers who “have an app”. Typically,  these digital products are not the primary means of engagement with the client or in the case of the insurer apps, completely independent. Ctrl is built from the ground up as a digital product because as Venter states “if you start off envisioning the product as a mobile application, it acts differently” compared to the traditional establishments. This makes the product scalable and stable throughout their growth and supports their clients in new ways not contemplated by traditional players before. Traditional players often think of digitisation as transforming existing processes into electronic processes which miss the point about what digitalisation can do. For instance, digitalisation is moving insurance away from prediction to measurement, which will fundamentally change the industry in the near future.

The three founders; Pieter Venter, Francois Venter (no relation) and Pieter Erasmus, have a range of skills between them from financial intermediary services to actuarial science, but they are not technologists nor experts in mobile app development. To assist them with starting their tech company and the required mobile app development, they read The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. Venter says that they used the canvases from the book to help them on the journey and define the business model. From this, Ctrl’s founders knew the “what”, but not the “how” and that is why they chose to work with Polymorph.

Polymorph’s full stack mobile app development offering from frontend developers to backend engineers as well as a designer onboard from the start allowed Ctrl to tap into decades of experience. This meant that there was a broad range of technology knowledge ensuring that the right technologies were chosen from the start. As Venter explains, mobile app development is not for the faint of heart: “decisions one must make can be daunting, so it was helpful to rely on a company with experience. You get the right advice and feel calmer in the areas you are not familiar with”.

With an extended Sprint 0, Ctrl spent more money and time on the planning phase which ensured a smoother first sprint in the development of the app and less iteration in later stages. During the mobile app development project, Venter highlights the importance of critically thinking about whether this is the right thing to do right now, “Polymorph would keep challenging us around Minimum Viable Product, asking ‘do you need to make this decision on this feature right now, or can we push it out to later’”. Venter notes that this helped during the Sprint 0 and development phase, since “when you build something, you intuitively want to build the complete product with all it’s bells and whistles. This means that you slowly drift away from what you have decided the MVP to be and the moment you start doing that, you start spending money on things you might throw away later. Polymorph kept us focused and acted as a soundboard guiding us on those decisions”

Ctrl will launch early in 2018 and will be able to offer products and services from a number of leading insurance service providers.

Straight from the entrepreneurs mouth:

"It is a fantastic time to start because software as a service has ensured that it has never been cheaper to develop a mobile app."
"There are great tools like Trello and Slack, use them" "Bootstrap… if you can"
"Think about design from the start"

Pieter Venter
Pieter Venter

Ctrl co-founder

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